Thursday, October 31, 2013

On girly gay Americans

By Anči

 What's that German word that has to do with taking pleasure in somebody else's misery... schadenfreude? (You can always count on the Germans to provide the world with appropriately sadistic terminology.)

Anyway I've been experiencing a little bit of that ever since I caught wind of this latest military scandal. I don't want to make people uncomfortable, because I realize how sensitive these things are... So well, it has to do with the Marines oppressing one specific gender with a culture of brutality. You probably know which controversy I'm talking about. Ok good, let's say it together on three:


And I have literally never been happier.
 La la la la la...

 The official Marine reaction thus far, has  looked a bit more like this:
but I don't want to be a girl!

On the one hand, you can see where they're coming from: Take it from a senior marine. According to him, “The Marines deserve better. It makes them look ridiculous.”  Yes new hats will make the marines look ridiculous.  Up until now, you guys have been a beacon of dignity.

nothing about this seems absurd.

But out of curiosity, sir, what specifically makes the hats so offensive? Well apparently it's that they're "women's hats."

Women's hats?!! That sounds horrible! I imagine this means they're covered in tampons, or gosh, maybe they come equipped with an estrogen dispenser. Wait, no? Okay.. are the hats decorated with suggestively "blooming" flowers?  Are they branded with "Hello Kitty" insignia?  No? None of those things? What's the problem then? 
Turns out one of the issues plaguing our national headgear is that it looks "more French than American." And everyone knows the french are super queer.

Thanks a lot, Obama.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Stop Telling Women to Smile!

By Anči
I'd love to see someone tell this this lady to smile.

Just want to alert you all to a fantastic street art project called "Stop Telling Women to Smile" which aims to challenge one of the most predictable male-responses to contact with an unamused woman. That's right. We've all been on the receiving end of an unsolicited appeal to "smile." (Particularly those of us afflicted with resting bitch face syndrome.)

the original bitch face.
For some reason society has deemed it unacceptable for women to express anything other than  unbridled enthusiasm, when encroaching on a dude's line of vision. Reasons for this presumably include the inevitable disintegration of every bro-ego in the offending dame's proximity.... resulting in a "white male tantrum"-- the likes of which recently caused a government shutdown.
If you think about it though, it makes sense. If babes are going to take up space, it should be for the benefit of the surrounding boners: whether we're at school, at work, or at lunch.
You're right, this does feel more natural

 Actually scratch that. It makes no sense. In fact, it's that kind of attitude which often amounts to gendered-abuses like street harassment. (most "benevolently" manifested through dude nation's  cross-continental crusade to limit womanity's range of facial expressions to a generous:  happy, sympathetic, and horny. )

These public displays of male entitlement would be infuriating enough, without invoking the olde Patriarchal edict to "smile while female." For those of you not in the know, I am referring to the international "smiling dude-cree" supported and enforced by the babe-police. (otherwise known as "random-creeps-on-the-street.") Because apparently it's not enough that we're systematically surveyed for signs of sluttiness? (alliteration!) Or that the sanctity of our uteruses is routinely challenged, in an endless string of political plays? (See what I did there? Re-appropriating anti-choice language is my feminist super power)

Thankfully though, women like Tatyana Fazlalizadeh exist, to pioneer kickass campaigns like "Stop Telling Women to Smile." If it weren't for her, I'd probably be working on that other blog post i've been putting off. More importantly, womanity would be one movement-builder short of a teeming cooperative. (Just kidding. There's already more of us than the Manosphere can handle.)

That's all for now. Be sure to check out Tatyana's site, and spread the word.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: American Horror Story Coven: A festival of teething vaginas.

By Anči
not sure what's going on here, but the dismembered legs are definitely creepy.

This article marks the first edition of my "Women and horror" series.
I started putting this piece together after watching the premiere  episode of American Horror Story: Coven; aptly titled "Bitchcraft." (Though, I think we all agree that "A Festival of Teething Vaginas" makes infinitely more sense.)
Anyway,  I got distracted, and forgot I was planning on reviewing the season 3 opener, so here I am three weeks later, catching up:

BRIEF INTRO: The pilot opens on New Orleans 1834, in the luxurious estate of Delphine LaLaurie, a deceptively maternal and bloodthirstily psychotic slave owner, obsessed with power and beauty. In one of the first scenes, we see her applying blood to her face, in some creepy attempt at recapturing youth, or... perhaps recalling her long-lost period. 

Turns out the blood she's been slathering on her skin, comes from the group of African slaves, she's holding captive in her basement, for the purposes of... evildoing and unpleasantness (We're fed a glimpse of this, after Delphine banishes a handsome young slave to her torture chamber, for having consensual sex with her pretty white daughter.)

So far, we're off to a great start.

The story then advances a couple centuries, to present day, where we are met with a young couple in the throes of doing it. (presumably for the first time.)  And  because this is a horror show, we can guess how this scene will play out. (Hint: not with two satisfied sighs, after a mutually fulfilling flurry of fistings.) Turns out, the fornicating protagonist,  Zoe, has been afflicted with a particular brand of vagina dentata,  wherein her amorous passions propel her sex-buddy into a bloody seizure, culminating in his violent, and disgusting death. Oh and, Zoe's also a witch; which she discovers soon thereafter. (although the murderous hoohah should have been a giveaway.)

Cut to a scene of Zoe boarding a train, on her way to witch school...  where I guess the bulk of the storyline is supposed to take place. [In the background, creepy music signals oncoming doom.]

At the academy, she meets a group of fellow students: Nan, Queenie, and the beautiful Madison-- who is also a movie star. (Portrayed by Julia Roberts' look alike niece, Emma Roberts.)
Additional  players also include, headmistress Cordelia Foxx, and her mother, the "Supreme Witch" Fiona Goode, who's introductory scene echoes that of her slave-carving predecessor's, Delphine LaLaurie, from centuries before. (alzheimer patients: see first paragraph. Then send me that overdue birthday present. And this time include a receipt.)
Just like Delphine, the Supreme Witch Fiona is obsessed with youth and beauty. And just like Delphine, she resorts to torturing a man of color to attain it.
Only in this case, the man in question is a scientist,  who has been developing a formula to reverse the effects of aging. Naturally,  Fiona blackmails him into injecting her with this time-erasing serum, and when it doesn't work, she kills him.... by literally sucking the life force out of him, with a rousing tongue-kiss. (Turns out our saggy Supreme also has something in common with supernatural newbie Zoe, eh? Interesting how this particular genre associates destruction with women's sexualities.)

nothing phallic going on here.

But positioning female desire as a source of evil is nothing new-- in fact, it's a pretty hackneyed convention. And given this fact, you'd think the writer's would fork over something fresher, to justify their supernatural salmagundi. If not for the problematic nature of the original formula, then at least for the sake of quality television. Or maybe, out of respect for their viewers?
Also worth considering: Since genuine spookyness lies is in the unknown,  recycling tropes like the virgin/whore complex is the last thing a horror show wants to be doing. Predictability is the surest way to kill the mood. (in the genre, and in the shower.) How many times must the public be served with requisite killer vaginas before hollywood figures out that that shit is tired? Where are the screams? Where's the surprise? Booooring.

 And it gets 'better,' when the episode takes an awkward rapey turn. (awkward in terms of story flow. I'm not making light of rape. Please no letters. Unless they're taped to that birthday present you owe me, old man.)
In an abrupt change of pace, we cut back to Zoe (of deadly 'down there' fame) who goes to a party with her fellow school-witch Madison, (of Julia Roberts relation fame.)  A bunch of crazy shit ensues, beginning with a group of frat boys who spike Madison's drink, before systematically gang raping her-- in one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever illegally watched on my laptop.
Note however, that disturbing doesn't necessarily translate to compelling horror. As thrilling and gruesome as it is, the primary function of graphic imagery is to act as a flimsy substitute for content.  In this case, the effects play like the lazy byproduct of a  "buzzed" writer's room.. (Though I have no statistics to back that up.)  So....Still not impressed!

I did find the subsequent revenge scene very gratifying though: When a recovering/raging Madison,  uses the sorcery in her pinky to flip over the bus filled with her fleeing assailants--along with several of their innocent peers. Sad-face.

But that's when things get... complicated, and (for once,) much to the credit of the show writers:
Now Zoe (of the blossoming bear-trap) who witnessed the rape of her friend, is devastated to discover that one of the boys who perished in the enchanted bus-flipping, was a sweet guy she had met at the party. Her despair is further compounded by the reveal that the sole surviving member of the bus crash, was the ringleader of Madison's gang-rapists-- the mastermind who had deliberately deceived and drugged her, before violating her unconscious body.

If you remember from seven sentences ago, Zoe's magical curse is her toxic temple, which turns out to be useful here:  Yes, that's right: In a fit of righteous anger,  Zoe rapes the comatose rapist, until his head explodes and he dies.
 (pause for effect..)

To me, this particular plot device worked. As far-fetched as it sounds,  within the framework of a shaky storyline founded in patriarchy and rape culture, bla bla bla...  the retribution was justified, and very nearly saved the episode.
It goes without saying that most people including me are against rape, but because this show operates on the level of fairy tales, in its use of metaphor and symbolism, the "reverse-rape" scenario, provided us with a comforting revenge fantasy steeped in fictional-justice. After all, if every rapist was treated to a round of retributive rape,  women might feel safer going out at night, or riding the bus topless. And as a female viewer who felt genuinely threatened during the gratuitously drawn-out gang rape scene, I enjoyed the momentary vindication at the episode's climax  as I'm sure many other women did. Any thoughts?

For more discussions of AHS: Coven, stay tuned for my next episode of "Women and Horror"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

No-Photoshop Policy a Win for Women?

By Anči

Maybe she's born with it. (But probably not.)

Like some of you, I was hopeful when I saw the Huffingtonpost piece on Verily Magazine's revolutionary "no photoshop" policy. If anything this was a step in the right direction,  after a generation of insidious image tampering. (Guys, did you seriously think we wouldn't notice that you severed away half of Kim Kardashian's butt? It is kind of her thing.)

So while I'm always cautious of publicity plays like this,  it was encouraging to encounter a company committed to promoting a more accurate depiction of women. According to the article, Verily's particular departure from protocol was a reflection of its co-founders'  belief that:  "the unique features of women... should be celebrated -- not shamed, changed or removed."

Look at all the unique features being represented!

And in a show of transparency,  the magazine deigned to incorporated this belief into their company mission statement, vowing:  "Verily never alters the body or face structure of the Verily models."

Pretty compelling stuff.  Pretty sneaky too.

To be clear, I have no doubt the company's telling the truth-- because the beauty industry never lies. But more importantly,  because it's a winning strategy, at no cost to them.

Confused? Then consider this photo I 'borrowed' from their website: (don't sue me, I have no money.)

"i'm a monster"

That's right. If you're anything like me, you just adjusted your seven-year-old bra-strap before mouthing some version of 'Wait, that's what they were going on about?'

Besides lacking the robotic flawlessness of your average Covergirl, the image doesn't really challenge anything. In fact, its a  pretty accurate representation of western beauty norms, no? : thin, white, young, pretty.  Check, check, check, check.

And if you scroll through the magazine's website, you'll note that even with their token samples of alternate pigmentation ( That's right,  I found a black model!) the company archive of babes remains spectacularly in line with beauty-myth regulations.  Thin, young, pretty.  Rinse, wash and repeat.

 Check it out:

Just another example of how different we are.

So much for the excitement.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Disney can't figure out how to depict lady emotions.

By Anči

I don't know why this story surprised me: Maybe I just wasn't expecting Disney to cop to this type of nonsense, after being called out time and time again for sexism. But it seems like the head animator of the upcoming "Frozen" flick,  Lino Di Salvo,  did in fact, state the following:
"Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, cause they have to go through these range of emotions, but they're very, very- you have to keep them pretty and they're very sensitive too-- you can get them off a model very quickly."

Hang on, did everyone catch that? It's really hard to draw expressive lady characters, because you have to keep them pretty tooo??
Um, except isn't that this guy's job? If DiSalvo can't handle something as basic as drawing emotions, maybe he's not the right person for the head animating position? (They could hire a woman instead--  cause a lady might be more familiar with the way women's emotions work, and all.)

Also, I loved the way DiSalvo backs up his charge with the un-ironic use of "historically speaking." (As in, "Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult.")

Yes sir,  historically speaking, the most powerful corporations in the world have to respect outdated industry standards. Because that's what it says in the bible.  It's not like Disney has the power to change the cultural norms they put in place themselves.

 And it gets better:
Our heroic head animator was also quoted explaining: "So, having a film with two hero female characters was really tough, and having them both in the scene and look very different if they're echoing the same expression."(Huh? Let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he was chewing on a day-old rump steak, while "articulating" this bit)

But see how cleverly DiSalvo maneuvered that excuse in there? "having a film with two hero female characters was really tough" means 'It's a really big deal to doodle more than one cartoon babe at a time... so, it's not our fault we give more screen time to male characters.'

Message received, and subsequently filed, under "bullshit [coma] disney [subheading] lesbians [category] sharkfood

We have a very complicated filing system.

Anyway, the problems with this project don't end there: It seems that the original title of the picture (recently re-christened  "Frozen,") was "The Snow Queen." This might not be so objectionable, if it weren't based on the beloved fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, and if it weren't the second time Disney pulled a gender-swapping stunt like this. You may recall, they did the same thing with their movie "Rapunzel" which was unceremoniously rebranded "Tangled," before morphing into a story about a bumbling prince. (With the Rapunzel character relegated to mere love interest status.)
That's what happens when you hijack my movie.

Over and over again, female dominated films get served with a manly overhaul, in an industry where girls are already woefully underrepresented. This in turn, makes for a public accustomed to the idea that women aren't interesting, and that they don't deserve to have their stories told.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Real men vs. underwear models" is a thing of beauty


For those of you who thought Body Acceptance only applied to women, here is an awesome new campaign aimed at challenging rigid notions of masculinity!
 Dubbed "Real men vs. underwear models," this project is exactly what it sounds like:


is it crazy that i'm actually more attracted to the guy on the left? Absolutely not. The guy on the right looks like he wants to kill me. Also, his hair makes him look stupid. This message is way too long to work as a caption.

What I love about this campaign is that it acknowledges something most men have been reluctant to discuss: That beauty standards are oppressive to dudes too.  And while guys certainly don't experience the same level of bodyshaming, and scrutiny as we do, they still have a male beauty myth to contend with.

This new wave of consciousness-raising might be the reason so many guy friends have opened up to me about battling body image issues:  these complexes have simply become common enough, that overlooking them is no longer an option.  In fact, pretending to be unaffected by beauty standards would at this point, only demonstrate an extraordinary lack of awareness. Not to mention doucheyness.

 The time for faking a relaxed attitude is over, lads. You can sing belch your suffering to the heavens-- or weep into the bosom of your bro. Because some bros have bosoms too.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Rebel Wilson's not just a 'fat girl.'

By Ana CL

So I was pretty excited when I heard that Rebel Wilson was coming out with her own show. She's an insanely fierce funnywomen, blessed with killer comedic timing, and a hulkish on-camera presence, to rival any network front-liner's.  (swoooon!)
Not to mention that unlike many other TV-actresses,  Ms. Wilson doesn't have the dainty limbs, or model-like proportions necessary to mask a weak  performance. (I'm looking at you, Whitney Cummings. That's right, thin+snarky doesn't a comedienne make!)
All in all, a solid start for Rebel. (and a bitchy start for me, amirite?)

But after checking out the first 2 episodes of her sitcom, (Super Fun Night), I was forced to conclude that the new series was not only undeserving of the high-powered feminist anticipation it's been afforded, but undeserving of Rebel Wilson herself.

It seems that like her fellow plus-size comedienne Melissa McCarthy, Rebel's been relegated to the network basement of fat-jokes,  populated by zingers like “The only trophy I ever won was for the ‘guess the weight of your own boobs’ competition." Other such highlights involve scenes of Rebel's character Kimmie,  barreling into a meeting  unannounced--  after hearing jelly donuts would be served. Unsurprisingly, this moment is then followed by a cringeworthy admission on Kimmie's part, recounting a time her hand got stuck in a vending machine. ( On TV, fatness must always be justified with hillariously undignified antics.)

That's right, with all her starpower, ABC couldn't trust Rebel Wilson to carry a show about anything other than weight-gags. It's not even that i'm against 'mean-humor' per se, (yes, it's problematic, but it's also a delicious staple of network Television. ) I just find it disappointing that the creators of  her character, couldn't be bothered to come up with any other traits to goof on, than the obvious size factor.

(Plus, it just seems like lazy writing, to say "hey guys, she's fat" and then coast for the rest of the episode.)

Hilarious! let's turn this into a whole episode!

On top of that, the show  does Kimmie the additional disservice of desexualizing her. (A standard practice on  TV, where fat womens' sexualities are either erased, or played for laughs.) We're acquainted with this impulse early on in the pilot, when a beautiful co worker named Kendall asks Kimmie about her relationship with their boss's son.  The ensuing exchange goes:

 Kimmie: "Richard and I are just friends."
Kendall: "with benefits?"
Kimmie:"is sharing stationary a benefit?"

Really, a grown woman is so clueless about sex, she doesn't know the term "friends with benefits?" Are you kidding me with that, writers?

Sadly, our sassy heroine doesn't fair much better in the second episode, wherein she and her friends sign up for an online dating service (Quick poll: How many people foresee imminent humiliation?) :  And after securing a response from some guys looking for a group outing, (is that a thing?) they discover its only because Kimmie had pretended to be a Russian model.

Get it? Fat women are undesirable liars, who need to trick men into going out with them. How novel. 

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Zooey Deschanel's alright:

By Anči

Like most American women, i've long held an (admittedly, one way) grudge with the  quirky and loveable Zooey Deschanel. Also like most women, i've never been able to explain why.

So here we are, tackling the zany phenomenon that is Zooey Deschanel-- aka the pain in our collective feminist babymakers.

Known for sporting thick, 'childish' bangs, that stop just above her baby blue eyes, Ms. Deschanel has flawlessly managed to  straddle the ambiguous line between cute and soulful. (Nobody even knew that line existed, until she showed up!)  On top of that, the beautiful actress/singer projects a kind of childish sincerity, which she plays up with her girlish getups, and that ridiculous(ly sweet) ukulele she hauls around. Then there's that voice! Raspy and low, and haunting.

Get that? she's beautiful, cute, ethereal...and  the star of a successful sitcom. It's enough to turn any self-possessed woman green. And i'm starting to suspect that that unflattering effect has a lot more to do with the feminist daggers pointed her way, than any accusations of sexism being leveled at her. And what are those accusations? Namely that she's a woman in her thirties who irresponsibly projects an infantile image of women.
Okay, so she likes to be cute..but why is she suddenly being tasked with representing all women? Another question we should be asking is what makes her image so threatening in the first place?
Consider Mindy Kaling, who routinely affects a baby voice to soften her  rudeness, and petty behavior.  When she  bats her eyes and brags about how cute and successful she is, it comes off as manipulative, and (rightfully) undermines her likability.
Zooey on the other hand, is an undeniably warm person. We may not approve of her obsession with  kittens, but unless she's caught trafficking in kitty fur, we should admit that we have no case against her,  and that our problems with Zooey are just that: Our problems with Zooey.

When you analyze the anti-zooey backlash, you realize its actually steeped in sexist bias. Again, take her number one criticism: She's childish, and offensive to women! But how? Who decided that in order to appear  well adjusted, one has  to renounce all enthusiastic impulses?  Or that a  hyperfeminine aesthetic was an indicator of immaturity? Remember that Zooey's a successful, working woman who sings in a band, and stars in her own show -- what part of that screams "dependency?"

She's articulated this point herself, in a recent interview, stating:  "It’s sexist to think that [I] can’t act in a girly way or speak the way I want to speak or to assume that I’m not a strong and intelligent woman because of my appearance.” And if that wasn't awesome enough, she's also been quoted raging: "I want to be a fucking feminist and wear a fucking Peter Pan collar. So fucking what?""

That's right. So fucking what.

But If only that were the end of it! Other objections to Zooey  include the oft-cited charge that she's faking her entire persona: (meaning the 'adorkable' character she LITERALLY portrays on her TV show "New Girl." )  'You guys, she's not really that goofy!'  accuses the blogosphere, while collectively ignoring the fact that SHE'S ALSO ACTING.

In an article entitled "The Case against Zooey Deschanel,"  blogger Eric Garneau echoes this very position:
"it's that she tries way, way too hard to convince the world that she's awkwardly cute, that she's… ugh… adorkable, when this is clearly not the case. Guys, she's tricking us all."
Hear  that? We've been deceived! Next he'll be telling us Natalie Portman isn't really a deranged ballerina!
 Garneau continues: "After all, for many people, awkwardness isn't a personality trait that's chosen for reasons of fashion… it's something to be overcome. Awkwardness can, in extreme cases, be completely socially crippling, and while lots of comedians can mine material from awkward situations, we laugh at stuff like that because it rings true and we wish it didn't."

Ladies and gentlemen, the official spokesperson for awkward folk everywhere! Except,  as a member of the awkward community, I don't recall voting this dude into office: And while he's right  that awkwardness can in extreme cases be socially crippling, isn't in possible that  Zooey's alter-ego (Jessica Day) is simply not one of those cases? And why shouldn't the star be 'mining material' from her character's quirks?? Once a personality has been established, it's officially subject to the spoofing and ridicule required of all TV archetypes. (Haven't you seen FRIENDS?)

Also keep in mind, that unlike Mindy Kaling, (who plays 'Mindy' on her TV show) Zooey's not portraying a version of herself, nor does she write her own lines. That's why it's unfair to attribute any of Jess's antics to the giant-eyed fairy-princess who plays her.

What do you think? Is this woman playing us all, or is she just trying to have some fun?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Beautiful impressions

By Anči

Just stumbled across this incredible series of photographs, documenting the actual marks and impressions left by "binding apparel" on women's bodies

bra blargh.

As you can see, these flesh-emblems are not mere relics of victorian-era whore-shaming-wear. Nay, the air-obstructing mantle of Charlotte Bronte has evolved with the times:  Like a sexy virus, it's mutated into the reliable source of shoulder pain known as "bra blargh" (A term I just invented.)

So what does it say about the role of women, when we are not only expected to endure these impositions on our bodies, but actually pursue them?

It can't be a coincidence that conventional 'sexiness' has become equated with images of women  straining posing from inside these very rib-cracking devices fetching outfits.

Look how comfortable I am!

Moral of the story: It's completely acceptable for me to go to bed wearing these every night:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Introducing "thigh gap"

 By Ana CL

As if our beauty standards weren't arbitrary enough, there's been a new regulation introduced to its ever-shrinking confines.

Introducing thigh gap:  the creepy, and inexplicable obsession of sexy people all over the  Western Hemisphere!

It used to be that a person's hotness could be determined through such straightforward means as: establishing facial symmetry, or  calibrating stomach flatness. (it doesn't count if you're sucking in!) Gone are the days, when the markers of beauty were limited to a sufficiently adorable nose, or a  sufficiently white mother. It seems we have now reached the age of the Mandatory Thigh Gap.

Thigh gap, or that gap between a skinny woman's thighs, was covertly inducted into the Official Hall of  Beauty standards, sometime in 2013. (Apparently, while I was in the shower.)
And like all healthy people,  I am still coming to terms with this development. Over a second lunch.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Push Presents"

Sort of related to Ana's previous post about engagement rings, today I would like to talk about "push presents". This is a gift (usually jewelry) that a new father gives the mother of his child for enduring the excruciating pain of labor, not to mention the super fun experience of the previous nine months of pregnancy.

There is just something incredibly insulting to me about this concept. It makes it seem as though the mother isn't worth anything, just her offspring (i.e. the 'heir') is. Why isn't the baby in itself present enough? The push present seems like something shiny given as a reinforcement for positive behavior and there is something so condescending in that.

But most of the "controversy" surrounding push presents has to do with whining about how men spend their hard-earned money on baubles for their lazy wives who have done nothing but sit around all day and get fat, wasting away their husbands' hard-earned money while they stay home. As one woman says:
"To expect my husband to go out and buy me an expensive gift when he works so hard to allow me to stay home is an insult to him."

Huh? While I don't necessarily agree with the reason behind push presents, why can't a the man buy one for the new mother if he wants? Who says the gift has to be expensive? Why is the inference the fact that she hasn't done anything by staying at home (and I call growing and then taking care of a tiny human 24/7 doing plenty!)? Wasn't her staying home to do all this a mutual decision?

Here are some more disturbing quotes on push presents as found in this article by Catherine Donaldson-Evans from Fox News (*gag*)

"My husband does not believe in jewelry, so I saw it as the perfect opportunity to cash in on the whole societal pressure thing," laughed Seattle mom Julie Leitner, 32, who got a white gold and diamond bracelet in the $800-$1,500 price range when her daughter was born."
"I'd been told by so many people that you're supposed to get one that I just assumed it was the norm," said Leitner.

And from a man's perspective:
"I wouldn't necessarily say the gift was from me," said Bruce Owen, 35, of Oakland, Calif. "[My wife] picked it out. She bought it. It was more as if I didn't have a choice."

So if men feel obligated to give, and women feel obligated to get, why are we perpetuating this ridiculous "tradition"? What if parents just put that jewelry money into the kid's college fund instead?

What do you think of push presents?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why Mindy Kaling irritates me.

 By Anči

I've been a conflicted fan of Mindy Kaling's for a while now-- on the one hand, she's a wickedly refreshing presence in the media-- as the first Indian-American star of a network show, ('The Mindy Project,' which she also created,) a respected comedy writer who's penned a best-selling memoir, along with multiple "the office" episodes... it's pretty clear the lady is a badass. Oh and I didn't even mention her deliciously abundant exterior-- the likes of which are so rarely featured on TV.  ( she likes to call herself 'chubby.'  I say sure, if chubby also means superhot.)

I mean, i'm not crazy  right?

That's a pose that says: "I star in my own show,  and I'm rocking this hot pink dress, bitches."

But when you set aside all the ways this woman is a trail blazer, you're left with an unsatisfied itch in your ladybrain: Perhaps it's my unyielding expectation that she become the next Tina Fey, (an outcome i'm still hoping for,) or maybe it's a tropical parasite.  Whatever the reason, it's clear that Kaling's comedic voice lacks the humility, warmth, and punch of women like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

Unlike Fey and Poehler, Kaling seems to have become totally invested in her own celebrity--  tweeting pictures of all the expensive stuff she owns, obsessing about celebrity culture, and giddily identifying herself as "new money"--   There's nothing technically wrong with sharing one's luxurious lifestyle with the world, but it does undermine Kaling's credibility as a comedian with depth. Seriously, bragging about how fancy your life is, isn't an endearing quirk.  (even less so when Seinfeld does it. but let's not go there..) Instead, it demonstrates a grating lack of awareness--- which has now started seeping into her comedy.

On her show (of which she is head writer, ) her character frequently behaves in inexcusably inconsiderate ways-- yet, magically, is still perceived as adorable by everyone around her. When Larry David acts like a jerk on Curb your Enthusiasm, nobody on the show treats him like he's a charming whackball-- in fact, he's routinely called an asshole, and told to fuck off. On the Mindy Project, Mindy's assholish-ness is regarded as annoying or high-maintenance at worst, yet everyone remains lovingly protective of her.  Not once is her entitled, petty behavior called out....or taken to its logical conclusion. (like being hated by all her co-workers.)  She masks this trend by inserting occasional jabs at her character's weight,  (which also fills the self-deprication quota imposed on every leading lady on TV.)  But despite that, TV Mindy still gets treated like the hot, adorable girl who can get away with being rude, and selfish.... because she's just so cute. (a point the real Mindy is clearly desperate to make.)

On the show she plays a doctor, who is always surrounded by her co-workers. And like most doctors in their 30s,  she's prone to saying things like: "That's really cute. Here's a tip though. Don't try to out cute the cutest person in this office."   On top of that,  her character (much like her actual self) enjoys bragging about her wealth and success, with statements like  "I can do anything as long as it's just paying for something." (I know you think that's cute Mindy, but it's actually really obnoxious.)

Can you image Liz Lemon or Leslie Knope saying anything like that? Not that their characters are perfect-- but at least they exist in a world with social consequences.

Kaling  is so eager to project the image of a pretty,  popular girl (something she struggled with in High school) that it's  hijacked her ability to flesh out a convincing character.  Here's a hint: if you're still stuck on proving to everyone how pretty and popular you are, then you're not mature enough to be writing believable characters  based loosely on yourself.  To paraphrase my mother, 'the artist should serve her art'-- not the other way around. Unfortunately Kaling is still operating under the assumption that her art exists to serve her-- Here's hoping she'll grow up soon.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This Week's Badass Woman is Eliza Griswald, Split This Rock's 2013 Freedom Plow Award Winner

Eliza Griswald is the first-ever recipient of Split This Rock's Freedom Plow Award for Poetry and Activism. She was chosen for her work "collecting and introducing the folk poems of Afghan women to America". Read more about Griswald and the award here, then come with me to the gala event at the  Goethe-Institut in Washington, DC on Friday, November 1. The event will include a reading as well as a special performance from the DC Youth Slam Team, which I guarantee you will not want to miss. 

Book Review - "The Selection" by Kiera Cass (Part I)

The Selection by Kiera Cass is exactly like the Hunger Games if The Hunger Games met Twilight and created something even more messed up than the Twilight chick’s cannibalistic, pedophilia-victim baby. In The Hunger Games Katniss is a smart, capable woman who does not want to participate in her messed up country’s national (and, weirdly, televised) legally-sanctioned murder sports. As a result of this she ends up torn between two guys, but always puts herself (and her family and friends) before her romantic interests.

In The Selection, America (yes, that is the protagonist’s name) is a gorgeous girl talented at household chores who does not want to participate in her messed up country’s national (and weirdly, televised) legally-sanctioned version of female slavery (“romantic”!) sports. As a result of this she ends up torn between two guys, and always puts them first.

(Since that was more snarky than informative, here’s what’s actually going on in The Selection: the Prince makes a bunch of women compete for his hand like some messed up, high-stakes version of The Bachelor, and the benefits to the contestants’ families are too good for the girls not to compete. Like North Korea where you do what the dictator tells you if you want your family to live. And this is all televised for the enjoyment of the country/world).

The book actually passes the Bechdel test in the first chapter! At least it does if you’re somewhat braindead and you read the test in the strictest sense of the rules without understanding what it’s actually about. In the beginning, America’s mother tells her how pretty she is. Of course she has a chance at bagging a prince! While it is oblique, the undercurrent of the conversation still is America (and her younger sister May’s) desirability to men, so I’m going to go ahead and say it doesn’t count. This opening chapter is a good indication of what this book actually is - a trite, demeaning book that is nevertheless masquerading as “empowering” to young women. America doesn’t want to be a princess! She’s bucking the trend! That makes her soooo different and strong! Um, no, it actually means she is an idiot. Her life goal is still to serve a man hand and foot, she just wants to do it for a poor, starving guy instead of a prince. I should also mention that this takes place in the future, not the Middle Ages. America has a trade (musicianship)--she is not talentless or reliant on men to be her breadwinners.

This desire to be completely subservient is foreshadowed (if you can call dumping a 40 lb. weight on the reader’s metaphorical foot foreshadowing) in the beginning of the book during her first described interaction with her boyfriend, Aspen. Here, America tells us that her greatest ambition is to sew Aspen’s clothes for him! The two compliments this guy gives her are “wow, you’re so gorgeous” (her protests that she isn’t don’t work on him!) and that she will, “make a man very fat and happy one day” i.e. she’s a good cook. Does she reply by saying, “No, you jerk, I’m going to be the best and most celebrated singer ever, not your personal cook-slave”? No! She simpers at him and contradicts…. “No, I’m going to make YOU fat and happy one day!”. I’ll make a small concession for this since the guy is supposed to be so poor he is literally starving, but still.

Then America, who does not want to compete for the Prince’s hand, laughs with Aspen about how she doesn’t want to end up some schmuck in this horrifying competition, and what does he say? “Darling, I’ll support you in this?” Of course not. He wants her to do it. He wants to sell his girlfriend into sex slavery; held as a romantic interest for a Prince to whom she has no feelings for, for the sole benefit of himself. Oh, and her family, I guess. How does he convince her to do this? By manipulating her into it. He kisses her and teases her until she can’t concentrate. She tells the reader that she does not want to do it, but cannot deny him anything. At this point I am starting to worry that the author does not understand what an abusive relationship is and I am honestly a little worried that she thinks this is okay to condone - however tacitly - to young, female readers. And because America does “everything she can to make Aspen’s life easier” of course she agrees to do something which she has been saying for the entire story so far that she does not want to do. So, with one plea and a kiss, the only conviction the protagonist has ever had is swept away for the good of her boyfriend.

(Look out for Part II of this Review soon!)

Nice guys need NOT apply! (or call. or text.)

 By Anči

If you want to turn off a feminist (or  really, any woman)  try becoming a dude who whines about friend-zones. You know the type: frustrated, insecure, and prone to sporting a GIANT chip on his shoulder (which he's dutifully purchased at an Apple store..) The kind of guy who likes to moan:  "It's not faaaair! I was nice to her, and she didn't have sex with me. Therefore: I should stop being nice to all women!" (a logical conclusion if ever there was one!)

If you want an example of this phenomenon, consider that in a recent (feminist) online discussion I joined, a misguided male commenter decided to pop up, and offer his two unsolicited cents on the subject of nice guys and pick up artists (PUA)  stating:

"So.... lets look at it this way. [A] nice guy who treats women well and takes his time is friend zoned. [while the] guy who acts like a funny jerk and pushes sex gets laid? As much as people hate PUA stuff... it exists continiously [sic] because women fall for it. I gurantee [sic] that half of the PUAs that exist... exist because they were tired of being friendzoned."

You mean nice guys like you, who are soooo nice they feel entitled to reward-sex? Because that is straight-up altruism, right there, buddy! And of course you're right : the only alternative to being a pathetic nice guy, is to act like a pushy jerk. There are literally no other available options to choose from.  (For more options, click here.)

If you're reading this blog, chances are you gave birth to me, (hi mom!)  or that I paid you to. (hi, honey!)  Also likely, is that you share my view that guys like this are a joke...   Sadly though,  at the core of this 'joke'  is a very real cultural expectation on women to 'put out' when all the 'official' requirements of 'courtship' have been met. (according to the guy. Never mind the woman's requirements, because... fuck us, right?)

In fact, I once (briefly) dated a guy who operated along those lines--  And he was perfectly nice for a while:  he opened doors for me, (although I was significantly stronger than him...)  took me out to dinner,  (which I thanked him for,)  left me sweet messages,  and then.... started saying he loved me, and was crazy about me.  (A sentiment I did not return.) This eventually progressed to him driving to my parents' house in the middle of the night,  to drop off  love letters, and baked goods--   at which point,  I had already been avoiding him for a few months. (Verbally ending things was not an option for me, once his erratic tendencies had become apparent,  and I no longer knew what behavior he was capable off.)

After months of no contact from my end,  this guy started leaving me charming voice mails to the tune of  "fuck you, bitch! You broke my heart, and now you won't talk to me?"  (No sir, I won't. And I bet it has something to do with how nice you are. ) The messages became increasingly violent, and  threatening,  until I was finally forced to respond with a pithy: "Stop harassing me, or I will take legal action." (Fun fact: I still have all his messages saved, in case he ever does try to contact me again.  )

All this went down several years ago, and still it remains my number--one association with the term 'nice guy,'   Obviously, I am not unique in this perspective-- as almost every woman I've talked to, has at some point been harassed by a nice guy of her own.    [seriously dudes, come up with a new strategy... maybe take up knitting! Because who doesn't love a whimsical sweater?]

I imagine that the  man who left the initial whiny comment, might scoff  "so you'd rather date a jerk instead?"  (I've actually gotten similar reactions before.) And to him and his ilk I'd counter:  "How is the story I just shared NOT a clear-cut description of a jerk, you entitled sociopath??"
Get it now readers? Jerks and nice guys are part of the same creepy continuum, and if you don't agree with me you too might be a sociopath! :)

Now, this is not to disparage the 'good guys' who are monumentally different from the nice guys. (In that  the good guys are pleasant, caring people who don't expect sex in return for decency.) Good guys make great friends as well as  great boyfriends and/or lovers (if that's what you're into.) Being a good guy, doesn't guarantee anyone sex, but it does guarantee not being labeled a creep... which is so rare these days, it almost passes for a virtue...

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Violence against women--it's a men's issue" TED Talk--Shared by Leili

"Calling gender violence a women's issue is part of the problem, for a number of reasons. This is one of the ways that dominant systems maintain and reproduce themselves . . . the dominant group is rarely challenged even to think about its dominance." --Jackson Katz

Ana Casian Lakos made a good point in her comment on this post about Mexico city's government hiring a female-only force of traffic police. She stated, "of course, we should ask ourselves, 'why is dominance so linked with manhood? Why do we teach men aggression instead of empathy? It's because of these social norms that men end up being more violent than women." 

I agree, and her comment reminded me of this TED Talk in which Jackson Katz argues that we need to change the way we speak and think about gender violence. The talk had me flushed and teary-eyed and "heeeells yeah"-ing the first time I watched it. And maybe the second time, too . . . 

It mystifies me that we continue to discuss gender violence as something that happens to the victim, not something that an attacker does--as if the victim has had a bad run in with a random force of nature, instead of being assaulted by a conscious human being. Placing the pressure on women to avoid being assaulted also plays a part in women blaming themselves for their attacker's violence, and internalizing their shame, which contributes to a low rate of women reporting that they've been attacked

It also frustrates me when people analyze an assaulted woman's clothing as a factor in her attack--not only because it's blaming the victim, but because it's insulting to men in general. It implies that men are rage-and-lust-filled animals with no self-control--that if they so much as see a woman's skin they'll lose all rationality. And if we continue to perpetuate this "boys will be boys" attitude how many men will internalize that their actions are not their fault? 

My boyfriend recently said that if he had kids he would want to have a girl, so he could raise her to be a feminist. That made my heart pretty happy, but I replied, "I dunno, I think I might like to have a boy--so I could raise him to be a feminist."